One of my associations with Finland is that it has the highest standards in school education, but Kari doesn’t seem convinced that it’s necessarily the achievement it seems. Finland does so well, he suggests, because the median standard is high. But what about the best? “We don’t win Nobel prizes,” regrets Kari.
Finland sets great store by equity, and so it makes sense to have everybody together in the same schools. There is not even streaming. But it seems that some Finns, including perhaps Kari, are beginning to think that it might make some sense to have some special facilities for the very gifted. Germany, he says, does that.
I think of Britain, where many of our senior politicians and actors went to a single school, Eton. Senior positions in everything tend to be filled by people who went to private schools then Oxbridge. Now we have a debate about restoring grammar schools, although there seems to be almost a consensus that the evidence is clear that overall standards slip in you cream off the brightest.
And education is not all about book learning: it should also be about social and emotional skills. Britain is divided by its education system; Finland is united by its.
Although I undoubtedly benefited from a grammar school education, I favour the Finnish way.